The Foreign Service Journal, December 2020

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | DECEMBER 2020 71 AFSA NEWS A Brief Reflection on Measuring Impact As I write this in October, we’re a short way from the presidential election; we’re entering month seven of COVID-related telework; and USAID has, per the press, put a hold on all diversity and inclusion trainings. And it’s only Tuesday. Amidst all these high- level domestic concerns, I found a smidgen of hope in a few articles highlighting the peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban. Granted, one article was celebrating the “accom- plishment” of the parties’ agreement on 19 discussion ground rules. Still, these days I’ll take that as a posi- tive. Like many FSOs, I served a year at USAID/Afghanistan. And, like many FSOs, I had a far better experience—per- sonally and professionally— than I had anticipated. I worked with fantastic people across the inter- agency, as well as from the Afghan government, implementing partners and other institutions. I made lifelong friends with folks I might never have met otherwise. I like to think I taught a thing or two to the awesome economic growth team I led—I certainly learned from them, as well as from an exemplary ambassador and deeply dedicated mission director. And, yes, I missed my wife and boys. My team and I focused on getting things done during my yearlong tour. We cleaned up several half-developed projects—great ideas floating around the bureaucracy that needed either an extra push or a final nail. We launched new initia- tives, striving to be respon- sive to our Afghan counter- parts while safeguarding U.S. taxpayer money and oper- ating in a highly politicized context (both fromAfghan counterparts and Washing- ton!). And we tried—really tried—to consider and build in sustainability and impact. But how do you do that in a one-year tour? How do you do that amid changing priorities, frequently rotating staff, fluctuating budget and personnel levels, constant— and at times conflicting— “guidance” from above and, of course, reporting, report- ing and more reporting? The answer is we just do it; that’s why we became FSOs. At the end of the (long) day, I do believe that my team and I played a part in achieving the current Afghan peace talks. Could I quantitatively measure our contribution? Enter it into one of the myriad mandatory reporting spreadsheets and templates? No, not really. And even the excellent fact sheets, stories, pictures and outreach of USAID communications col- leagues don’t really demon- strate causality. But all FSOs know that their collective contribution to USAID’s mission is far greater than their individual, day-to-day roles or, often, even what they and their teams achieve during a tour. And they know that the impact they have on host- country farmers, teachers, children, mothers, econo- mies, civil society, elections, the marginalized and, yes, on U.S. national security, is immeasurable. n USAID VP VOICE | BY JASON SINGER Contact: | (202) 712-5267 AFSA Supports EEO Complaint for Equal Pay AFSA is supporting an equal employment opportunity (EEO) complaint filed on behalf of three women who reached the Senior Foreign Service working for USAID, but argue that they were paid considerably less than dozens of less experienced and lower-ranked male colleagues at USAID. Each woman worked for USAID for more than 27 years, and each reached the rank of Career Minister. After discovering in 2016 that they hadn’t been paid as much as lower-ranked male colleagues, they made multiple informal attempts to get USAID to correct the inequality. When the agency took no action, the three filed a formal complaint in January 2017 against USAID alleging violation of the Equal Pay Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. The women documented disparities in pay that affected their base salary, as well as other compensation based on a percentage of that base sal- ary, such as danger pay, post differential, contributions to Thrift Savings Plan and pen- sions. On May 12, after a lengthy EEO process, USAID issued a Federal Agency Decision denying the com- plaint. The women appealed to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s appellate body, the Office of Federal Operations, on Aug. 12. The appeal is still pending. Observers consider the complaint a litmus test of USAID’s commitment to enforcing the Equal Pay Act in its most senior ranks. “AFSA is proud to stand with our members to sup- port this effort to right this longstanding wrong by USAID,” Ken Kero-Mentz, secretary of the AFSA Gov- erning Board and chair of AFSA’s Legal Defense Fund, says. n